M&S boss warns EU red tape to lead to soaring supermarket prices and empty shelves

Penny Mordaunt hits out at the EU over Northern Ireland

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Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman said post-Brexit checks with the Republic of Ireland are “pointless” and “threatening” its business. But he warned the same problems would arise for Northern Ireland once the Brexit divorce deal’s border fix is fully implemented in the region. Mr Norman’s warning comes ahead of the Government’s announcement for plans to overhaul the trading arrangements.

In a letter to Brexit minister Lord Frost, the supermarket boss said the EU’s current customs rules were “totally unsuited and were never designed for a modern fresh food supply chain between closely intertwined partners”.

In order to avoid a hard border, Northern Ireland remains inside the EU’s single market, with a number of customs controls on goods shipped from the rest of the UK.

Once grace periods allowing for light-touch enforcement of the rules expire, Mr Norman warned that the region’s supermarket shelves could run bare.

He wrote: “There is no other outcome for consumers in Northern Ireland in the end other than higher prices, given inflationary pressures being put on to retailers by the regulatory regime.

“Being able to keep the show on the road, let alone growing, is going to be very challenging.”

M&S has been forced to employ 14 full-time vets to help fill out the necessary paperwork for sending everyday products, like sandwiches, into the EU and Northern Ireland.

Mr Norman said the highly skilled practitioners were “simply ticking boxes and filling out forms” in order to certify products.

“Sandwiches typically require three veterinary certificates to get through,” he said.

If EU red tape is fully implemented in Northern Ireland at the end of September, the M&S boss said it would be “incendiary” for the public there.

No10 recognised Mr Norman’s letter as a “stark warning” of “the fundamental problems with the Protocol”.

A spokesman added: “That is why we need to urgently tackle these issues, to ensure there is minimal disruption to people’s lives in Northern Ireland, as the Protocol itself intended.”

Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis will set out the Government’s approach to the Brexit deal’s protocol to avoid a hard border later today.

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They will likely warn that they are willing to rip up and override sections of the agreement if Brussels is not willing to compromise.

Whitehall officials have previously warned that the EU’s hardline interpretation of the post-Brexit trading rules are putting Northern Ireland’s peace and stability at risk.

Unionists have already voiced significant anger over the measures because they feel it is driving a wedge between the region and the rest of the UK.

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One insider told Express.co.uk: “Solutions must be found to address the issues which are causing significant disruption on the ground in Northern Ireland.

“All options remain on the table if these cannot be reached.”

The EU is expected to respond furiously to any threats of further unilateral action.

Eurocrats have already started legal proceedings against the UK after the Government earlier this year delayed the implementation of EU rules on supermarket goods, pets and parcels in Northern Ireland.

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